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Super Bowl: Bryant McKinnie a 3-dimensional, partying giant

MIAMI — It is 3 a.m. EST, and I'm standing outside the W Hotel on South Beach with a couple of Super cartoons.

To my right, there is a giant partyer. Literally, a giant. He is six-foot-eight, 355 pounds. I can make the argument he is the biggest and most infamous partyer in our celeb-soaked town this past week — certainly the most infamous one in this section of the newspaper. It is hard for someone this large to vanish, but Bryant McKinnie somehow managed it as the only guy dismissed from this year's Pro Bowl because he kept missing obligations without officials knowing how or where to find him. He says, hurt and a little sad, that it was all a terrible misunderstanding.

To my left, there is LIL' Kim. She is very LIL. Four-foot-nine. I don't think there is a smaller celebrity sex symbol in the world unless you count the font that Prince uses as his actual symbol. LIL' Kim is the size of something McKinnie might tattoo on his arm, only with more cartoonish breasts. It is impossible to articulate the amount of effort that had to go into squeezing her into all her sparkles and makeup and a dress that appears to be made of aluminum — rapper in a wrapper, must have taken 10 people 10 hours to wrap her.

McKinnie and LIL' Kim are starting their evening now at 3 a.m. — going to P. Diddy's party at Cameo nightclub, or did that go without saying? — and yet I'm somehow disappointed, even though they've invited me along to partake in what will be, by night's end, 36 bottles of champagne.

But I was really hoping for a bus full of strippers.

(There's a life lesson in there somewhere, kids, about reducing your expectations so you reduce your disappointment.)

Allow me to explain: McKinnie, the Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle, is a man of substantive appetites. It is hard to articulate how impossibly thick he is in person. He has size 18 feet. His hands are so enormous that, when he closes one, you can no longer see any part of his Blackberry in it. He's Shaq thick. He didn't allow a sack his entire college career at the University of Miami, not even in practice. I thought it'd be funny and colorful and real to drink a bunch of alcohol with him and write about it for you. Document Super excess. Or perhaps you would have preferred a breakdown of the zone the Saints defensive coordinator plans to use in the second quarter Sunday?

McKinnie, like a lot of athletes, doesn't have much interest in the media, especially not now. We are flies around an elephant's tail in the best of circumstances, but we'll climb uncomfortably into your private regions when the scent of scandal appears. So he probably wasn't going to be OK with a writer chronicling him throwing dollar bills in the air at South Florida's most crazed strip club this week, especially not when NFL employers are a lot more dedicated to selling you polished corporate image than anything that resembles the sexy and violent truth about this game and this week.

Cute Peyton Manning commercials are easier to digest than the totality of someone as three-dimensional as McKinnie, which is convenient enough but also the reason that the gluttony of Tiger Woods ends up surprising America. As Joumanna Kidd, scorned ex-wife of NBA star Jason Kidd, said after finding her husband's secret prepaid cellphone with dozens of secret female names: Sometimes success takes men to places where their character can't keep up.

Making matters more difficult, about the only time someone as anonymous as an offensive lineman can ever make national news is the way McKinnie has — negatively. That'll make a man hate us very quickly, or at the very least distrust us, and with good reason. McKinnie has made national headlines three times — with this Pro Bowl incident, with a sex scandal on a boat that involved actual Vikings and with a four-game suspension after a bar fight described thusly by one newspaper:

"McKinnie went to another club across the street, but returned to Club Space at 6:30 a.m., when he struck the bouncer in the face before hitting him in the back of the head with an isle pole. Police responding to a report of the fight arrived to see McKinnie screaming obscenities and throwing punches at the bouncer. Police ordered McKinnie to stop beating the man, but McKinnie refused to comply. McKinnie then made a failed attempt at escaping on a charter bus."

That last sentence is my favorite.

I wanted on that bus.

The Super Bowl is an insanity of excess. Keep in mind, I was once with Ricky Williams when the night got so out of control that he woke up at 6 p.m. the next night at the home of Eric Clapton and stumbled into the kitchen to find breakfast-dinner being made by a group of people that included Dennis Rodman and a transvestite. So what might I find in the swirl around this giant's party? Or "The Big Mac Experience," as McKinnie likes to call it.

I called Luther Campbell, the godfather of hip-hop in South Florida. Quietly — or maybe not so quietly, given that his explicit rap lyrics made it all the way to the Supreme Court — Campbell has more power over former UM players than anybody in this city. He does extraordinary work with inner-city kids through football, and he helps these Miami kids before a lot of other people start loving them, so most of them will do just about anything for him.

(Ridiculous aside: Campbell likes me for some reason. Don't ask me why. I was actually at his wedding. Sat at a table with DJ Jazzy Jeff and Slick Rick. It was the single whitest moment of my life.)

"You want to get on the love bus?" Campbell laughed. "That bus is too wild for even me!"

Campbell worries about McKinnie. Wants him around fewer leeches. Doesn't like that he'll blow $20,000 a night on fun, as he will later this evening when he buys 36 bottles of champagne at Cameo but loses his bottle war to New York Jet Braylon Edwards, who buys 51. It is an interesting thing to hear, the rap star as a mature older figure, especially when Campbell is the guy who patiently explained to me for the first time that "making it rain" was throwing dollar bills in the air around naked strippers.

"You aren't going to make it rain with McKinnie!" Campbell howled. "You aren't going to make it thunderstorm! You are going to make it tsunami!"

Campbell hung up. I got a text a few minutes later from McKinnie.

"We'll meet later," it read.

It wasn't going to be that easy, of course. "Later" is kind of open-ended. The guy was dismissed from the Pro Bowl, for the love of God. He probably wasn't just going to responsibly drive to my house in his Love Bus. We must have texted 20 times over two days until I was finally informed by him that a convoy of SUVs was headed my way. And then I still couldn't find him for a few hours, until I walked into the bar of the W hotel and saw a mountain wearing a sweater. I reached up and slapped him on the back/shoulder, assuming a camaraderie from text talk that clearly wasn't there. He did not turn around. Nor was he really expecting me, evidently. Nor had he thought about me since agreeing to see me a few hours ago, it would appear. It was an unbelievably wide and strong back, a fact that dawned on me rather suddenly (a primitive animal instinct, something between fear and terror) when his posse just stared at me after what I had done, another clown trying to make his way into their circle of pretty women and fun by ... hitting their giant in the back? I tapped McKinnie on the back again, more gently this time, and awkwardly tried to introduce myself above the music like the dork that I am.

He just stared at me. He let me ramble about what I wanted to write — the life of a star and his mobile party. I stammered for a good three minutes because McKinnie had a totally blank look on his face. Evidently, Campbell hadn't told him what I wanted to do, just that I wanted to talk. I could feel my toes curling into the carpet through my shoes as I explained, yeah, um, bottles and models and... . I could feel my face going warm and, the more I noticed that, the harder it was to keep the sweat from forming on my temples. McKinnie is used to being approached for interviews in the locker room, not when he has a drink in his hand and is surrounded by party people. He didn't say a word.

I don't know whether it was the volume of the music or my general awkwardness or just how many people a day approach a millionaire with needs, but McKinnie inexplicably understood that what I wanted to do was . . . sell him real estate.

Seriously.

He thought I was trying to sell him a plot of land.

I, ladies and gentlemen, am allegedly a professional communicator.

"Sorry," he said. "I thought you were somebody else continuing a different conversation I had today."

Truth is, I probably would have had better luck selling him Everglades swampland than selling him my idea. Hell no, he wasn't going to go to King of Diamonds strip club with me, so I could write about it for South Florida, his employer and the NFL to read, even though it is all legal and real and King of Diamonds has hosted more Pro Bowlers this week than the game itself. Once McKinnie heard Campbell's name, which he evidently didn't the first two times I said it, he thawed.

But he was more curious about what my younger brother was doing. My brother is an artist who goes by LEBO. He is a lot more interesting than I am. Cooler, too. I had invited him to trail me this week and add illustrations to my words, so he was sketching nearby. McKinnie grabbed his sketchbook and, page by page, very slowly amid this swirl of chatter and music and sexy, considered each sketch. He did this for several minutes. It was pretty obvious he was more interested in my brother's prism, innocent and new, than what he had to assume, given his public scars, was my cliched media desire to detail smut and scandal.

My brother knows next to nothing about sports. So he kept asking what I thought were the dumbest questions. But McKinnie was far more engaged by them than he was by anything I was saying. So, if he had to be any kind of animal, he would be a bear. And, if he hadn't been born so giant, he probably would have gone into music.

My brother asked if he was a linebacker, but McKinnie patiently explained his job as left tackle thusly: "I'm the bodyguard, and everyone is trying to assassinate my president. The quarterback has four other guys on the security detail. Five security guards. I'm kind of the boss of the security guards. I protect the spot my president can't see."

He protects Brett Favre, I said.

My brother shrugged. The name didn't mean anything to him. McKinnie laughed.

"The guy from the Levi's commercials?" McKinnie helpfully added.

That didn't help.

It had to be funny to McKinnie, given the sports media's myopic obsession with Favre this year, that this guy drawing about the Super Bowl didn't know Favre. And encouraging. Maybe people outside this small, narcissistic world of sports hadn't heard about his public shame.

McKinnie said he wanted to play in the Pro Bowl, his first, especially since it was in Miami. But the pain wouldn't let him, and he backed out the wrong way. He just told his agent at 9 p.m. one night and considered the matter done and blew off all the responsibilities of the next day, figuring his agent would contact the proper parties. It's not like he just went drinking for days, he said. He wanted to explain it all through Twitter, without the media running it through its own filter, but the Vikings asked him to please stay the heck off that contraption since he'd been tweeting about going from party to party while his Pro Bowl responsibilities were being blown off.

"People question me by saying that, if I was in so much pain, I shouldn't be going out," McKinnie said. "Come on. Standing here and having a drink isn't the same as trying to block someone who is 300 pounds. You would have thought I committed a crime. I had to turn the TV off. It was a long season, and I'm hurt. I've broken my hands and played. I've vomited on the sidelines and played. I've dislocated my fingers and played. I'm hurt."

He looked down at his size 18s.

"When these hurt, I'm in trouble," he said. "And they hurt. I was fine for a few days, but just because of the Toradol. Then it wore off."

Toradol?

"Anything that ails you, it takes the pain away," he said. "Some guys take a shot every week; shot in the butt, burns for 10 seconds. I usually don't do it because you have to sign a release for the side effects, but we were a game away from the Super Bowl."

McKinnie seems docile when he's not playing. Gentle, even. He speaks very quietly. He was in the band in high school. And now here comes his party partner for the night, this tiny little thing with the big personality, wearing so much perfume you can smell her from another ZIP code.

"He's one of the best guys I know," LIL Kim says of McKinnie. "Honest, sincere. He has his priorities right. Big heart. Nice guy. Likes to take care of his friends and make sure they have a good time."

She stops for some reason. She knows how glossy and superficial and incomplete entertainment is.

"I could be wrong," she says. "Who knows what is really is someone else's brain?"